NEXT GENERATION OF JFR DRIVERS TOPS AT INAUGURAL CHARLOTTE RACE (CHARLOTTE) --- On what is arguably the quickest track on the NHRA POWERade series, zMax Dragway at Concord, Robert Hight led the charge for John Force Racing laying down a...
NEXT GENERATION OF JFR DRIVERS TOPS AT INAUGURAL CHARLOTTE RACE
(CHARLOTTE) --- On what is arguably the quickest track on the NHRA POWERade series, zMax Dragway at Concord, Robert Hight led the charge for John Force Racing laying down a blistering 4.072 second pass in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. It was the quickest run of the day equaled by Frank Hawley who took the top spot by virtue of a faster mile per hour.
"Since we dropped a cylinder on the first run as well as the last two runs at Indy you begin to think that you have a cylinder dropping disease again. That run we probably took too much fuel away from it. It only ran 300 miles per hour and it was hurt at the top end," said Hight. "We were the quick car at all the incremental to half track and from there on it was kind of wounded. It was still good enough to get the top ET. Frank Hawley just ran a better speed."
Hight knows that making consistent runs tomorrow could pay benefits on Sunday.
"Tomorrow we need to be in the top four both sessions in the heat. That puts us in a good position to race. If we are near the top every single run what it is going to do is it will make guys that you are racing against on Sunday push a little harder," said Hight. "They know what you are capable of and you make other guys make mistakes. We just have to do what we know what to do. You can't ask for anything more right now. I am pretty happy."
Teammate and reigning rookie of the year Ashley Force also stepped up in the second session running a career best mile per hour, 307.02 mph, for the truncated 1000 feet racing distance
"I didn't think it ran that good because usually if it runs really good my guys will be all over the radio but I think since dad had some troubles and we were sharing a radio channel they might have been looking out for him," said the former high school cheerleader. "When I got out everyone was telling me good job. I can't believe how close the top four drivers are as far as ETs. Ever more exciting than doing well on the night run was getting a good run in during the heat of the day."
Force was impressed by the track but more impressed that once you crossed the finish line the track conditions held up.
"When you were going down the track you didn't feel anything. There were no bumps, the cars just go straight down the track. That is always nice. Even the shutdown area is smooth. It felt different when I hit the chutes and Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) thinks it is just because the top end is so smooth. A lot of shut-offs aren't that smooth so it makes the pull of the chutes feel different."
Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Neff and the Old Spice team improved on their first run and know that getting into the top half of the field will be critical for continued success in the Countdown to 1. Neff was also raving about the zMax Dragway at Concord after his second session.
"I'll tell you this racetrack is so good. Not just the facility I'm talking about the racing surface is so flat. The rubber looks like you painted it on the track. It just doesn't get any better. I would say this is probably the best racing surface that we race on," said Neff. "It doesn't matter that this is the first race. When they run the tire machine over it and it lays a good solid coat of rubber down and you can come out and run a good number on the first day."
"We just watched some of the best times we have seen all year. These aren't even the ideal conditions. The track temperatures are hotter than we have seen and the air is not that good. Without a doubt in my mind if the weather was cooler and the track cooled off a little bit you would see the best numbers ever run here. This track is phenomenal," said the former world championship crew chief turned driver. "We made a good run and we are happy with that. We are eight and we are in that top twelve. That is very important especially when it sounds like the weather is going to get hot tomorrow. Really we are just satisfied with being in that top twelve going into Saturday."
Heading into tomorrow's Saturday session team leader John Force is on the outside of the top twelve. He will once again benefit from the opportunity to race into the top sixteen thanks to the revised qualifying structure instituted by the NHRA.
* * * *
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 15th quickest run at 4.147 seconds, 298.14 mph
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 4th at 4.075 seconds, 307.02 mph
Quotes: "This track just felt like all the really good runs we have made this season. You are really just able to feel the car. You aren't feeling the track. You know that if you feel something it is the car. The track is that smooth."
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 2nd at 4.072 seconds, 300.33 mph
Quotes: "That run (second session) we probably took too much fuel away from it. It only ran 300 miles per hour and it was hurt at the top end. We were the quick car at all the incremental to half track and from there on it was kind of wounded. It was still good enough to get the top ET. Frank Hawley just ran a better speed."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 8th at 4.104 seconds, 304.46 mph
Quotes: "This track is phenomenal. We made a good run and we are happy with that. We are eight and we are in that top twelve. That is very important especially when it sounds like the weather is going to get hot tomorrow. Really we are just satisfied with being in that top twelve going into Saturday."